Outta Gas
   based on a painting by Franck Polisanto
   inspired by a painting by Edward Hopper
by Sharmagne Leland-St. John

We coasted in on fumes.
A couple miles back
the needle on the dash
shook frenetically back-and-forth,
then registered zero on the gas gauge.

Ned put the gears into neutral
and rolled in on a wish and a prayer.
The roadster the same colour
as the gas pumps.
We thought it must be some omen.

Then the boy came out
looking like Billy Gray,
“Bud” from “Father Knows Best,”
2 decades or so later.

Crewcut, white tee-shirt, blue jeans,
but this boy had
a pack of Lucky Strikes
rolled up into the left sleeve
of his tee and a layer or two of grease
imbedded under his fingernails.

We knew Bud’s mother
Margaret Anderson would never approve.
This was a few years before
this teenager would be called to war.

A few more years of innocence.
A few more years of smoking Lucky Strikes
and fondling the village girls at the local Odeon.

Years before he would die
on some foreign battlefield,
for what?

No dignity in death
when you were sent
to the slaughter by
a government
who considered you
no more than cannon fodder.

He approached the driver-side
of the roadster and asked
“Fill ‘er up?”

Ned in linen trousers,
a starched white Arrow shirt
and Panama hat replied,
“You betcha!”

The boy pumped the gas,
accepted the generous two-bit tip
and went back to his life
as a gas-pump jockey;
and we to ours,
that summer of 1940,
before the world
exploded into utter chaos.

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